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[Yehoshua 8 Orthodox Jewish Bible (OJB)]
1 And Yahweh said unto Joshua [Yehoshua], Fear not, neither be thou dismayed [ discouraged]: take all the people of war [kol Am HaMilchamah] with thee, and arise, go up to Ai: see, I have given into thy hand the king of Ai [yad the melech HaAi], and his people, and his city, and his land:
2 And thou shalt do to Ai and her king [melech] as thou didst unto Jericho and her king [Yericho and her melech]: only the spoil thereof, and the cattle [livestock] thereof, shall ye take for a prey unto [ carry off for] yourselves: lay [Behind it set] thee an ambush for the city [Ir] behind it.
Having obtained a secure bridgehead west of Jordan, the time had come for the Israelites to mount a major offensive which would give them a secure hold upon the Promised Land. The campaign which Joshua would direct under Yahweh's guidance would bring the Israelites as far as Hebron, twenty miles west of Jordan and twenty miles south of Gilgal.
In effect, this campaign would give Israel control over the southern area of Canaan.
However, still somewhat troubled by the recent events involving Achan, Joshua needed encouragement and reassurance.
Aware of this, Yahweh said: 'Fear not, neither be thou dismayed. . ."
Such words of warmth and comfort show that Yahweh is constantly aware of the needs of His servants. He "knoweth" their 'frame". He understands the weakness and despondency which, at times, may be experienced by men and women of faith.
Showing great tenderness, Yahweh spoke with power and authority. He lifted Joshua to heights of renewed zeal and dedication. Such can be the effect of the word of God: Those who are striving to 'grow in grace" and in "knowledge" will consistently turn to the pages of God's word for comfort and for spiritual reinvigoration.
The time had come for further action. "Take all the people of war with thee", God commanded. "Go up to Ai: see, I have given into thy hand the king of Ai, and his people,
and his land."
A large army was to march. Not merely 3,000 as had been earlier despatched to Ai. Was such a great number necessary to bring about the defeat of Ai? By no means. Yahweh can "save by many or by few" (1 Sam. 14:6).
Why, then, did God require that such an army was to accompany Joshua? There are two likely reasons: firstly, this was to be a major offensive which would doubtless engage the services of many who were willing to fight the warfare of faith; and secondly, Yahweh wished to
reassure all the nation that He was with them. With the initial defeat at Ai, "the hearts of the people" of Israel had "melted" and become "as water". Such a defeatist attitude was no longer to be manifested.
Thus God would graciously remove the anxieties which were troubling His people. Victory at Ai was now assured. "I have given into thy hand. . ." These were the same words as had been spoken concerning Jericho (6:2); but they had not previously been spoken concerning Ai.
There was to be an important difference between the defeat of Jericho and Ai. As Jericho had been the " first fruits" of victory in the land, that city had been ''devoted" to Yahweh. But not so with Ai.
'The spoil thereof. . . ye shall take. . ." God told the people. However, the Canaanites themselves were still to be regarded as "devoted" and were to be put to death (Deut. 9:5; 20:16-17).
The strategy to be employed was then alluded to: "Lay thee an ambush for the city, behind it" Joshua would be advancing from the south-east. He would therefore march so as to be able to approach from the west (v.12). The inhabitants of Ai would not anticipate a move such as this. *
3 So Joshua [Yehoshua] arose, and all the people of war [ kol Am HaMilchamah], to go up against Ai: and Joshua [Yehoshua] chose out 30 000 mighty men of valour [shloshim elef ish gibborei hachayil], and sent them away by night [out by lailah].
Chastened and sober-minded as a result of their experience with Achan, the Israelites threw off their dejection. With renewed confidence, they prepared for their next
move. They had learned from Achan's folly to place no confidence in the flesh, and to give unqualified obedience to the voice of Yahweh. The lesson had been impressed upon them that God would only uphold their cause if they proved faithful to His word. *
4 And he commanded them, saying, Behold, ye shall lie in wait [set an ambush] against the city [Ir], even behind the city [Ir]: go not very far from the city [Ir], but be ye all ready [ nekhonim (ready, on alert, set, prepared)]:
The proposed tactics were carefully considered until all details were clarified and understood. Always a brilliant military leader, Joshua relied upon his faith in Yahweh. At the same time, he exercised wisdom, care and intelligence in the planning and execution of his military operations.
Their instructions were to lie in ambush "behind the city" but not "very far from the city".
The element of surprise would be on the side of the Israelites. By moving such a large number of men at night, the deployment of such troops would be kept secret from the Canaanites.
Preparations for this large-scale operation would have been most thorough. In the darkness of night thirty thousand men had to be led through hills and valleys, and over rough and difficult terrain. It would have been necessary to organise a special group to act as scouts and leaders.
In effect, these key men would have had to know every inch of the ground to be covered by the massed army of fighting men. Acting with extreme care and stealth, such scouts would have spent many hours combing the area, learning the way until they could virtually "see" in the dark - thus providing safe and silent leadership for the army.
Thorough preparation, including the careful consideration of such vital matters as topography and logistics, is essential in the planning of a successful military offensive. And so it is in the warfare of faith. No one will prosper in spiritual matters unless they are willing to give the time and effort to prepare themselves for the warfare before them. Ezra provides a fine example.
He "prepared his heart to seek the law of Yahweh, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments. . ." (Ezra 7:10). A progression of development is set forth in these words, resulting in God manifestation: the performance of Godly things, and the revelation of God's truth to others. But the keynote is preparation.
A wise Proverb counsels: "Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thy house. . ." (Prov.24:27).
A wise builder does not simply order truckloads of various materials to be dumped upon a site, and then begin haphazard construction, hoping that he has the right materials and in sufficient quantities. He carefully draws up specifications, and thoroughly checks them, well in advance of the commencement of any activity on the building site.
It is prudent to make sound preparation. A spiritual "house" must be built according to these principles - and the building of such a "house" involves preparation for the warfare of faith.
Paul posed a penetrating question to the Corinthians, at a time when they were plagued by many doubts and fears, and when, in many respects, they lacked sound and virile leadership:
"If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?" (1 Cor. 14:8). Quite so.
When the warfare is finally over, and all the redeemed have been rewarded with the gift of immortality, such an end will have been achieved because the Lamb's "wife" will have "made herself ready. . ." (Rev. 19:7) - a word which has elsewhere been rendered as "prepare" (cp. Luke 22:8, 9, etc.). *
5 And I, and all the people [Kol HaAm] that are with me, will approach unto the city [ Ir]: and it shall come to pass, when they come out against us, as at the first [ rishonah], that we will flee before them,
6 (For they will come out after us) till we have drawn them from the city [Ir]; for they will say, They flee before us, as at the first [ rishonah]: therefore we will flee before them.
7 Then ye shall rise up from the ambush, and seize upon the city [Ir]: for Yahweh your elohim will deliver it into your hand [ yad].
8 And it shall be, when ye have taken the city [Ir], that ye shall set the city on fire [eish to the Ir]: according to the commandment [Davar] of Yahweh shall ye do. See, I have commanded you.
9 Joshua [Yehoshua] therefore sent them forth: and they went to lie in ambush, and abode between Bethel [Beit-El] and Ai, on the west side of Ai: but Joshua [Yehoshua] lodged that night among the people [lailah among HaAm].
There were three essential elements in Joshua's strategy: the advantage of surprise on the part of the Israelites, the predictable reaction of the Canaanites, and the Hand of Providence acting on the part of Israel. *
10 And Joshua [Yehoshua] rose up early in the morning [boker], and numbered the people [mustered HaAm], and went up, he and the elders of Israel [ Ziknei Yisroel], before the people to Ai [HaAm to Ai].
Whilst the thirty thousand "mighty men of valour" had hidden themselves and waited in ambush overnight, Joshua remained in the camp at Gilgal. He "rose up early in the morning" and "mustered the people" (Roth., J.B.). He did not "number" them, as the A.V. indicates.
In this regard it will be observed that the Elders of Israel worked in close harmony with their leader. *
11 And all the people, even the people of war that were with him, went up, and drew nigh, and came before the city, and pitched on the north side of Ai: now there was a valley between them and Ai.
The entire terrain around Ai had been very thoroughly reconnoitered. Coming from the south-east, Joshua would have to by-pass the city before he could bring his men to pitch "on the north side of Ai". There was a compelling reason for this. It led them through a valley which provided precisely the type of terrain the Israelites needed - not only to draw the men of Ai out of their city, but to ensure that they were trapped, without hope of escape, once Joshua's army attacked from both ends of the valley.
The narrative contains an important detail: "There was a valley between them and Ai. . ." And that is why the Israelites were in that place. With his two armies carefully hidden to the west - Bethel was about three miles west of Ai - Joshua "went that night into the midst of the valley". Doubtless a great deal of "nervous" noise was made, to alert the people of Ai, who had the entire night to prepare to do battle against the Israelites at dawn.*
12 And he took about 5 000 men, and set them to lie in ambush between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of the city.
13 And when they had set the people, even all the host that was on the north of the city, and their liers in wait on the west of the city, Joshua [Yehoshua] went that night into the midst of the valley.
It appears that the larger number hidden in ambush were near to the north-western corner of the city, whilst the smaller group were placed in close proximity to the south-western wall.
This would indicate that at the appropriate time both groups were to converge on the main
western gates of the city.*
*Bro John Ullman - Joshua His Life and Times.
14 And it came to pass, when the king of Ai saw it, that they hasted and rose up early, and the men of the city went out against Israel to battle, he and all his people, at a time appointed, before the plain; but he wist not that there were liers in ambush against him behind the city.
So eager were the men of Ai, they did not wait for Joshua's men to approach, but went directly to fight, by the morning light. Here was abundant evidence of their self-confidence.
There was, however, nothing haphazard about the action they initiated. They went out to battle "at a time appointed" - which means that they put into motion a planned and organised attack. They had decided to join the battle when they were ready. Such was their optimism. They would seize the initiative. As they had done earlier. So they thought. The main flaw in their reasoning was that their confidence rested in flesh, and the fleshly mind - a recipe for disaster.
Sweeping out of the city, screaming their confidence to the skies, the army of Ai swiftly descended towards the Israelites, who were waiting "before the plain". Which, at first consideration, appears odd. But Joshua knew what he was doing. At the end of the valley, away from the city gate, lay a plain. In ancient times an army which felt confident of victory liked nothing better than to fight in the open spaces of a plain. In such circumstances there was ample room for manoeuvrability. No doubt the king of Ai could hardly believe his good fortune. Those foolish Israelites were even more stupid than he had thought!
But in his exuberance "he wist not" that the tables were shortly to be turned. Such is flesh when guided only by the carnal mind.
"The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made: in the net which they hid is their own foot taken. Yahweh is known by the judgment which He executeth: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. . ." (Ps. 9:15-16).
Like the ungodly in the days of Noah, the people of Ai
"knew not, until the flood came, and took them all away"
- a type of the divine judgments to come at Christ's return (cp. Mat. 24:38-39). *